The title, Anything That Loves, references the old adage, and oftentimes, insult, that bisexuals, unable to chose between women or men, are eager to have sex with anything that moves. The term was swiftly and proudly reclaimed by many members of the bisexual community — from 1990 until 2002, the San Francisco Bay Area Bisexual Network published a widely-read magazine called Anything That Moves to explore the complexities and diversity of the bisexual community. The comics anthology, Anything That Loves, picks up on their community-building and missionary spirit, working to educate readers on the possibilities of non-binary sexuality.
The cartoonists represented in the anthology range from comic strip writers to web cartoonists to experimental artists. Many reflect on their personal experiences of bisexuality, though some tell fables (which include mermaids) to illustrate their points. Cartoonists, Leanne Franson and Jon Macy, have been producing comics on GLBT topics for more than a decade and offer a seasoned perspective, while newer artists like Kate Leth, MariNaomi, and Sam Orchard offer fresh perspectives. Some stories focus on the challenges of explaining bisexuality to one’s partner, while others skewer prejudices in the gay community against a fluid sexual spectrum. A few explore other modes of non-binary sexual expression like asexuality, cross-dressing, and the transgender experience.
The project is ambitious — so many different ways to approach sexuality, so many different, colorful styles of illustration, from line drawing to manga-esque to retro-throwback. But, it doesn’t quite click. Much has changed for the GLBT community in the last 10 years: American culture has made great strides towards acceptance and inclusion, though it still has a long way to go. Within the GLBT community, the reclamation of the word “queer” and the younger generation’s emphasis on less restrictive sexual labels has broadened many people’s perspectives on sexual identity. With that in mind, the educational nature of many of these comics feels stale and obvious. At this point, most people picking up a sexuality-themed comic will understand that sexuality is necessarily complex and exists on a spectrum. Anything That Loves struggles to acknowledge that it understands that too. Though it might serve as a serviceable introduction to the bisexual experience for readers less well-versed in GLBT topics, more rawly emotional personal stories and fewer simplified, impersonal narratives would better enlighten those who’ve never encountered GLBT issues in any form before.
That said, this book is a wonderful example of how the queer community has embraced the comics medium throughout the decades. In a stroke of brilliance, Erika Moen’s personal narrative of evolving queerness is included and is also referenced in Lena Chandhok’s “Comics Made Me Queer.” Chandhok cites Moen’s work as a godsend in her own path to self-acceptance. This feeling of passing the torch, of chronicling the evolution of the GLBT community through comics may not have been the original intention of this book, but it’s a happy outcome, and makes the book worth a look, even with its imperfections. There’s some adult sexual content and some nudity, but only at the service of stories, so I would recommend it to any adult and mature teenagers.
Anything That Loves
by Charles “Zan” Christensen, Carol Queen Illustrated by John Lustig, Adam Pruett, Agnes Czaja, Alex Dahm, Amy T. Falcone, Ashley Cook, Caroline Hobbs, Bill Roundy, Ellen Forney, Erika Moen, Jason A. Quest, Jason Thompson, Jon Macy, Josh Trujillo, Dave Valeza, Kate Leth, Kevin Boze, Leanne Franson, Leia Weathington, Lena H. Chandhok, Margreet de Heer, MariNaomi, Maurice Vellekoop, Melaina, Nick Leonard, Powflip, Randall Kirby, Roberta Gregory, Sam Orchard, Sam Saturday, Stasia Burrington, Steve Orlando, Tania Walker, Tara Madison Avery, Mike Sullivan
Northwest Press, 2013